Dealing with pain
For a long time, the state of the physical body and the state of the mind have been seen as relatively seperate. If you become ill or experience some kind of pain, you go to a doctor, who examines you physically, and gives you appropriate medication. This is, of course, very useful and often life saving. However, in less acute cases, it might have the potential to take us away from any underlying message that the pain might contain.
What tends to be the first thing we try to do when we experience pain or discomfort? Get rid of it. Take a pill. Distract ourselves from it.
Perhaps one of the functions of pain is to call us into the present moment and into a conscious awareness of whatever it is that we are experiencing. If we can, for a moment, postpone judging it as bad, maybe we’ll find something of value within it. Maybe what we’ll find is that in the long run, we actually suffer more when we try to suppress or deny what we’re going through.
What I have come to understand, is that the body and mind are in no way seperate. They are intertwined, and the feedback loop between them is bi-directional, meaning: the body takes cues from the mind, and the mind takes cues from the body.
In working with clients and in exploration with myself, I have found that very often, pain and symptoms we experience are directly linked to mental or emotional issues. In some cases, this can be very straightforward: for instance, we might get a headache, because we’re stressed out about a big deadline coming up at work.
Other times, it can be more hidden below the surface. This is when we might need some deeper inner work or help from a facilitator. The idea is, that pain (replaceable in this context by illness), more often than not, serves as a messenger. The placement of the pain in the body and the quality of the pain could, if we tune in to it, tell us something about something mental or emotional that we need to become aware of.
Leaning towards the pain
A well known saying in the psychological or spiritual field is that the word pain is an acronym: Pay Attention, Integrate Now. So how do you actually do that? Rather than trying to move away from the pain, you go towards it.
A great way to facilitate this is through meditation, or even a focused yoga practice, and then with an open and quiet mind, imagining that the pain you’re experiencing is almost like a seperate consciousness that has a message to convey. And then, listen. Pay attention to what comes up. Is there anything you need to be aware of? Anything you need to change in your life? Any actions to take or emotional issues to resolve?
The cool thing about the body is that often, once we’ve been willing to dive into the core root of our pain and consciously made the decision to either integrate it or take positive action towards resolve, the pain starts to subside. We got the message. I do use the word ‘willing’ deliberately here, as it can certainly take courage to become aware of challenging and often emotional elements in our life. But often it is exactly what is needed to move forward more freely.
So my invitation to you is: the next time you feel physical discomfort or pain in the body, try to become still. Meditate, take a yoga practice. Ask yourself whether there’s anything there to become aware of. Anything you should know or change. Then, be open to receiving the answer and see what comes up.
Implement the knowledge
In the next blog post, I’ll be sharing how we can use this body-mind connection in a positive way: both by using our mind to create positive physical experiences, and by using our body to cultivate happiness and peace in the mind. Find Part 2 here!